The content of this post may be sensitive to some readers.
Rape stole my belief in myself and left in its wake a corpse lying in a heap on an unmade bed.
Rape took away the little girl I loved and put an actor in her place.
Fall, 1984. After a couple of hours at the college career counseling center my sophomore year, I decided exactly how I would achieve my career goals. It was a rush -- a huge, empowering relief. I'd work by day in the editorial department of a magazine and write screenplays at night. It was all coming together. A killer plan that would make my dreams of being a screenwriter with a beachfront house in Malibu a reality while still in my 20s. I walked out of that counseling center on a cloud-less spring afternoon feeling high, rejuvenated by a new sense of direction.
As luck would have it, my roommates were invited to a happy hour house party being thrown by upper classmen. We set off in our grey 1980s Ford Escort to purchase our liquid contribution, Steve Winwood hitting the highest high notes on "Bring Me a Higher Love," while my friends regaled each other with "Bring me another Bud."
Buds in hand, we parked the Escort facing up a hilly street and followed the drifting sounds of the Grateful Dead. We arrived at a grey Victorian with a large front porch, the sun shining directly overhead. The air felt light. We saw no one we knew, but the stylish upper classmen decked out in Polo shirts and Tommy Bahama shorts were laughing and gently rocking their bodies back and forth -- the "Deadhead Bop," as it was known in sophomore land. Undaunted, we mingled. Anna flitted here and there, joking with people she'd met for the first time, while Carmina and I hung back, smiling, content to be where we were on what we knew was a rare and perfect day.
Already buzzing with visions of my future deck overlooking the aquamarine Pacific, I got drunk quickly and easily. The day became night. We're at a grimy underclassmen bar -- back with our own kind. A senior from the porch party is there, wearing a light blue Mets cap. Kinda cute. Funny in a snappy, sarcastic way. I want to feel attractive, desirable. I steal his cap, flirting with him. He watches me walk away, smiling slightly. He lopes toward me.
The bed. Unmade double with door swung wide open. My naked body lying on it, head turned toward the door. His long, thin penis inside me, pushing himself harder and harder into me. How did I get here? Why is he on top of me? I want out but stay quiet. He's hurting me. I lie there motionless. Where did I go and why can't I speak?
His face never looks down at mine. Never wonders who I am. Never questions if I am someone's daughter, sister, best friend since pre-school. Someone who played with her Barbie camper on the front lawn, knocked on every door on the block looking for friends when she moved to a new town, taught herself how to ride a unicycle.
Someone with an unshakeable belief in herself and her place in the world.
As he pushed himself carelessly deeper and deeper inside of me, I left her on the bed, in that house, that night, in Ithaca. Never said goodbye. Never mentioned her again. She was dead, but my corpse carried on.
My belief in myself and the inherent goodness of others lie in ruins on the top of that unmade bed. In the 29 years since, I've never fully believed in anything. It's like my soul was ripped out and replaced by a copy -- a perfect replica on the outside but empty within.
Gone is the girl with the bounce in her step. Who am I now and how do I get that bounce back?
The girl who whiled away rainy Sundays watching Gene Kelly and Cary Grant movie marathons and loved nothing more than lying on the warm cement at the swim club eating Fun Dip while the sun baked your back. The one who felt strength in her difference when friends called her "flake," "airhead," or "FROBIN" (fucking Robin.) I was sensitive and my brain worked differently, but that's what made me who I was. And that was good.
I miss that girl, her spunk, and her Barbie camper. When she comes back, I promise to hold on and never let her go.
Need help? In the U.S., visit the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline operated by RAINN. For more resources, visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center's website.